On June 22, HomeTeam is teaming up with Ricky Sailor, the CEO of Unsigned Preps, to put on the first annual Battle of the Bay 7-on-7 tournament designed to crown the best team in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco or Hernando counties. The tourney ensures a county vs. county final to crown an area champ.
The one-day event is scheduled for 9 a.m. at Jefferson High School.
While Sailor said he plans an expansion next year -- "We want to get the first one under our belt,'' he said -- this year's event is invite-only and capped at 16 teams. The original plan to pit eight Hillsborough teams vs. eight Pinellas teams was altered when other counties expressed interest.
"We decided to invite the best 16 teams available and gear the tournament towards producing a Hillsborough vs. Pinellas (tourney), but decided we'd really like to see what teams like Nature Coast and Pasco have this year,'' Sailor said. "Pasco won the USF Sling-N-Shoot two years ago; it made sense to invite them. And the Sharks have some of the top recruits in the area. Plus since HomeTeam's coverage reached all the way out to Hernando, we felt they should be included."
The event will still be set up so a team from Hillsborough or Pasco meets a team from Pinellas or Hernando.
But you don't have to wait until the final for those cross-county matchups. Pool play will feature almost all Hillsborough vs. Pinellas games, then teams from Pinellas County and Nature Coast will be seeded in one bracket, while Hillsborough County and Pasco will be in the other bracket.
"And we're working on some other twists,'' said Sailor, a former Leto and Texas Tech star and assistant coach on Jefferson's 2010 state championship team.
The winners from each bracket will meet for the first Battle of the Bay championship.
"There's not going to be a bad matchup in there, which is what we liked about keeping it small. Every game should be an exciting contest,'' said Sailor, who will allow some coaches to pick their own games but will schedule as tough as he can. "We're excited about seeing Largo or CCC against Armwood, or Jefferson and Gaither against Countryside. And who wouldn't want to see Pasco against Largo, Armwood or CCC? We can do all those matchups.''
Unsigned Preps is a non-profit designed to help student-athletes get into college by providing tutoring, SAT prep, encouraging community service and organizing yearly bus tours to allow athletes to work out in front of coaches. "For a lot of kids, this is the only chance they'll get to see a real college campus,'' Sailor said. "Sometimes, kids just need to see the possibilities."
Sailor is using the tournament as a fundraiser for the tour, which this year will take 50 local recruits to the campuses of Clemson, Tennessee, Kentucky, Louisville and Vanderbilt, as well as to assist students in costly SAT and ACT prep classes.
Recruiting analysts from FUEL Recruiting, 247Sports, ESPN, Scout, Rivals and Big County Preps will be invited to attend.
The Times will provide extensive newspaper, internet and video coverage.
For sponsorship information or other questions, call Sailor at (813) 766-2813.
John C. Cotey can be reached at (813) 210-2251 or firstname.lastname@example.org.